Beowulf: a bit too heroic?

Reading Beowulf is hard.

And that’s not just because it looks like this:

Pictured: 2014 GCSE English paper.

Pictured: 2014 GCSE English paper.

Beowulf is hard for a modern audience to understand because he isn’t an underdog.

On Team Beowulf, we have:

–          Armour and weaponry enough to make him some kind of medieval James Bond

–          The strength of thirty men in his arm

–          God

On Team Grendel, we have:

–          His mum

Compare this with a modern superhero movie like The Avengers. The Avengers are presented as underdogs even though they number a supersoldier, a Hulk, a weapons-manufacturer billionaire, a god, an expert archer and Scarlett Johansson. But to make the fight watchable, their opponents are aliens who have the support of a god. Andour Avengers are tied down by bureaucratic restrictions of scary, faceless superiors.

Which says something on its own about our society, doesn’t it? What’s scarier than aliens and vengeful gods? Bureaucracy.

So what do these tendencies in narratives mean for your brand? We’ve talked before about finding the other than stands in opposition to you when creating a brand narrative. But it’s also worth making sure that the other that you identify is enough of a challenge to make the fight watchable.

Dove – Campaign for Real Beauty – fighting low self-esteem!

Tesco – Every Little Helps – fighting poverty!

Butler’s Chocolate Cafe – Purveyors of Happiness – fighting misery itself!

In practical terms, if you’re a small, independent coffee shop, the underdog narrative springs forth ready-made: fighting off the evil corporate giants around you, sticking it to The Man.

The greatest struggle of our times.

The greatest struggle of our times.

But if you’re the corporate coffee shop giant, and all you’re fighting is mediocre coffee – why is it worth being on your side?

If you’re a 1,300-year-old Anglo-Saxon poet  (or a 32-year-old coffee chain) wanting to get with the times, get in touch with Chris – he’ll get back to you once the dragon is under control.